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Spencer Johnson's return sparks BYU to 20-point win over Pacific in WCC opener


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PROVO — Welcome back, Spencer Johnson.

BYU's most experienced player poured in 15 points off the bench in his return from injury, and Jaxson Robinson had a career-high 17 points and six rebounds as the Cougars rolled to a 69-49 win at Pacific in their West Coast Conference opener Thursday night at the Alex G. Spanos Center in Stockton, California.

Rudi Williams added 8 points, five assists and four rebounds for the Cougars (11-5, 1-0 WCC) in their sixth straight win.

Keylan Boone had 19 points and four rebounds to lead Pacific (7-9, 0-1 WCC), which shot just 32% from the field and 26% from 3-point range.

In his first game since being sidelined on Nov. 24 with a knee injury, Johnson sparked instant offense with a 3-pointer as the Cougars used a 22-5 run to take a 23-13 lead on back-to-back buckets by Robinson midway through the first half.

"That's how you know Spencer has been around the block," said BYU senior Gideon George, who had 4 points and five rebounds. "He's so smart, he's a veteran guy, and he knows what it takes to win. Getting Spencer back had all of us excited to see him back and see him this way.

"It was a relief for us, on the defensive and offensive end tonight."

Johnson had a team-high 10 points at the break, including a 3-pointer with four seconds remaining to lift the Cougars to a 36-23 advantage. BYU shot 42% from the field and held the Tigers to just 24.1% that included 4-of-16 from 3-point range with a 26-14 rebounding disparity.

The Cougars never looked back and connected on 22-of-52 field goals, with 11 3-pointers. BYU also controlled the boards 45-29 while limiting the Tigers to just nine offensive rebounds.

The Cougars held Pacific, a top-25 3-point shooting team nationally, to 13 percentage points below their average from beyond the arc; and Dallin Hall nailed a pair of key 3-pointers in the second half to keep the Tigers at arms' length.

"This Pacific team had won three in a row and had put a couple of good home games together," BYU coach Mark Pope said. "They shot the ball from 3-point range super effectively. … I'm super proud of the guys tonight."

But Thursday night's win was about Johnson, who checked into the game early in the first half and found a way to stay on the court. The third-year BYU wing from American Fork, with previous stops at Weber State, Utah Valley and Salt Lake Community College, shot 5-of-11 from the field, 3-of-6 from 3-point range, and added three rebounds, an assist and a steal in 21 minutes in his first game in five weeks.

Most importantly, Pope was quick to say: Johnson didn't have a single turnover for a BYU squad that had 14 turnovers and forced 21.

"For him to protect the ball like he did was elite level," Pope said of Johnson. "We've missed him. To start the season, he was our best offensive and defensive player on this team. It was a real pain to South Dakota and UVU, some really tough losses to us, and the guys had to find themselves without him. Having him back right now, we're better and it's pretty exciting to have him back."

BYU returns home Saturday night to host Portland. Tipoff from the Marriott Center is scheduled for 7 p.m. MST.

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A proud graduate of Syracuse University, Sean Walker has covered BYU for KSL.com since 2015, while also mixing in prep sports, education, and anything else his editors assign him to do.

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